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Women Work On Factories Essay, Research Paper
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, women have made great strides towards equality. The 19th century saw the emergence of women entering the work force, gaining economic freedom, starting and participating in movements and most importantly, challenging the traditional and excepted role of women. Along the path for women’s social and economic freedom, there were many detours and barriers, as well as exceptional opportunities for their advancement.
The first major step for women was the emergence into the work force and thus challenging the accepted female gender role in society. They left their families, homes and friends to venture into the working world, leaving behind a safe-haven. Women entering the work force had its advantages and disadvantages. One problem that arose was the matter of the family. If a mother left her children to go work to help support the family, she was looked down upon by society as a bad mother. The father was also, more than likely, looked down upon as well for not being able to sufficiently provide for his family. This is probably why many mothers were hesitant to enter the workforce for fear of social humiliation. But many women saw this as the only way to properly provide for her children. If the husband was a heavy drinker or gambler, there were little alternative opportunities for the mother to provide for her family.
Many women found jobs in locally on farms or in mills, or they ventured to large cities for factory and millwork. Many of theses women were unmarried and they gained independence from their families by going to work. The women worked long, hard hours six to seven days a week and had little time for leisure outside of their home. By working, they were given the rare opportunity of economic freedom and independence from males.
The working conditions in these mills or factory were far from the desired conditions with low pay, long hours and harsh working conditions. Complaints of working conditions arouse in several mills and the female workers wanted a change. The workers organized groups during breaks or at their homes. Many of the workers lived together in company homes and it would be easy for them to converse on the conditions in the workplace. Because of the tight living quarters, one was expected and socially forced to cohere with the majority opinion. This could be both a positive and a negative force for the women. Social pressure tends to gathered large numbers, but this could have given rise to irrational thinking and unnecessary action. When in a large group, ideas and thoughts have a tendency to be viewed as less harmful than they would if suggested in a small group. The more people involved, the more chance ideas have a way of being accepted out of fear of being outcast by the larger group. This could have been a major barrier for these workers, although, little is mentioned on this aspect. For the most part, the large numbers provided more power to the women and their cause.
A key aspect of a woman’s life was simply belonging to a group. Whether it was in the factories, mills, abolition or women’s movement, or even the Washingtonians, women strived to belong and be apart of an organization of other women. Coherence to social norms and expectations was key to a woman’s success or failure to belong to an organized body. This is seen with the factory girl’s, and their expectation to cohere with the group, otherwise, they would be outcast by the group and their time in the home or work would be long, lonely and painful. Another example of expected social coherence pertained to alcohol. A mother who was fond of the drink was looked down upon by society for not following through with her responsibility to her husband and children, and the same went for the husbands. Heavy social pressure steered many women away from alcohol with the friendly pressure from the Washingtonians.
These workingwomen went on strike to send out the message of their seriousness and loyalty to their movement and failed several times. This was, more than likely, a lack of the necessary skills required to efficiently change social norms. They lacked the skills of organization, speaking and political knowledge and other skills on the note that these experiences were new to womankind. Never before had American women have the opportunity to challenge the system. The abolition movement was the perfect opportunity to gain these necessary skills.
Many women were involved in the success of the Abolition Movement. Here they stepped over the accepted social norms of society further than they ever had before and gained many skills necessary for the success of both the Abolition Movement and the Women’s Right Movement. They gained access to vital resources and skills needed to obtain their goals. Many can argue that the factory or millwork, or virtually any poor working condition and early movement loses were detrimental to women. But it must be understood that for women to be out of the home was in itself a huge step for women. Yes, they had poor working conditions, low pay and bad jobs, but women had to start somewhere. One cannot start at the top. For the short amount of time that women have been in the workforce, huge strides have been made for the betterment of womankind. Their early loses and setbacks taught them valuable lessons that provided the necessary skills for the future achievement and advancement of women.
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